Tour written by Sherrill Harbison
The Five Colleges, Amherst, Massachusetts
Plymouth is a tiny hamlet nestled in the Green Mountains forming the backbone of Vermont. It is the birthplace, boyhood home, and burial place of Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933), 30th President of the United States, who held office 1923-28, the years of Willa Cather's greatest artistic productivity and achievement. As a lifelong Republican, she undoubtedly helped elect him.
Here at the family farm, after being awakened at 2 a.m. on August 3, 1923 with news of the death of President Harding, Coolidge was sworn into office by his father, a justice of the peace—the only time in the nation's history that a president was administered the oath of office by his father. (When John Coolidge was later asked why he thought he could administer the oath, he replied "I didn't know I couldn't.") Coolidge used Plymouth as his summer White House, and like Cather's Captain Forrester in A Lost Lady (published during the Coolidge years), the President invited the movers and shakers of his day, including Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, and Thomas Edison, to visit at his favorite retreat.
Historic Plymouth is a time-capsule, beautifully-situated and unspoiled, considered the best-preserved presidential birthplace in the nation. Rural New England as Cather would have seen it in the 1920s can still be felt here. Among the ten buildings open to the public are the Coolidge birthplace, homestead, and summer White House (a large hall over the general store once owned by his parents). The Wilder Barn exhibits 19th century farm equipment, and the Plymouth Cheese Corp., founded by the elder Coolidge in 1890, is still in operation.
Historic Plymouth, located on VT 100A (map), is open daily mid-May to mid-October, 9:30-5:30; admission $5. Picnic facilities, gift and coffee shop. Visit: 2 hours. This stop could easily be combined with a visit to the St. Gaudens National Historic Site.
For visits to Plymouth, see listings under the St. Gaudens tour.
Tour written by Sherrill Harbison, The Five Colleges, Amherst, Massachusetts - 2003
Sponsored by the Cather Project - University of Nebraska-Lincoln